What happens if one parent is in contravention of a parenting order?

by The FindLaw Team

Parties who are bound by a parenting order must take reasonable steps to comply with the order. However with that being said, how does the law ensure that parties affected by a parenting order comply with such orders? It’s a good question, and this piece will provide a general outline of what happens when someone is in contravention of a parenting order.

The police and the Family Law Courts generally do not manage whether or not parenting orders are followed, but in the event of a contravention, the law generally encourages parties to undertake dispute resolution to resolve any issues that may arise. If dispute resolution is unsuccessful, an application for a court order can be made to deal with the issues and to vary the order if required.

What is a contravention of a parenting order?

A person is deemed to have contravened a parenting order they are bound to abide by if the person:

  • breaches the order intentionally;
  • does not make a reasonable attempt to comply with the order;
  • prevents another party who is bound by the order from complying;
  • assists a party who is bound by the order to commit a breach.

Reasonable excuse for a contravention

There may be instances where the court may consider that there is a “reasonable excuse” for contravention of an order with the reasonable excuses outlined in s 70NAE of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)(the Act), and are as follows:

  • the party fails to understand their obligations imposed by the order;
  • one party holds the reasonable belief that it was necessary to contravene the parenting order to protect the health and safety of the child, the parent, or another person;
  • the act of contravention was not for a period longer than was necessary to protect the health and safety of the person.

What happens if there is no reasonable excuse?

If the court believes there is a reasonable excuse for the contravention of a parenting order, the court will take into account the surrounding circumstances and can make some of the following orders:

  • requiring a person to attend a post-separation parenting program;
  • if one party has not had an opportunity to spend time with a child, then time with the child could be made up;
  • compensation for any reasonable expenses incurred;
  • changing the parenting order.

The court can also order a person to pay a fine, perform community service, be placed on a bond, or in serious cases, imprisonment. 

This piece is only a general introduction to the laws relating to contravention of a parenting order. If you require any assistance for a family law matter, please contact a legal practitioner who will be able to assist. 


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